Before going to LASA-LA, I searched the concept on FTC. No titled posts. Two positive mentions by Aesthete. No details.
Okay, I’ll bite…literally.
I’m feeling like a latecomer to LASA, but in case you haven’t experienced this little darling, it should be on your short list. The food is Filipino-inspired, but rooted in local influence. The inflection strikes a terrific balance which is not traditional Filipino cuisine, but there are components and riffs on the tradition. My meal was really just beautifully executed, well-balanced flavors inspired by the Philippines. If you are seeking Filipino food, this isn’t the place. Think of it as early Chez Panisse Cafe or Zuni. I kid you not. It’s that fresh, soulful and genuine.
Chad (chef) and Chase (FOH) Valencia are brothers who started popping up at the Elysian starting in 2014. Other hosts and staff include friends who are lovely, welcoming, and accommodating.
Parking is a cinch in and around Chinatown’s Far East Plaza which has been thoughtfully and continually curated by George Yu. Along with Ramen Champ, Chego, Pok Pok Phat Thai, Scoops, Howlin’ Rays, and the upcoming Lao Tao, Alvin Cailin’s incubator space Unit 120 is the current location for the LASA team.
The space has no ABC license making BYOB clunky, but happily workable. Only water and sparkling water are offered, so we hopped down to Pok Pok Phat Thai, grabbed a few Soms and had a great time testing, tasting, and mixing drinking vinegars. Chase gladly prepared them if we wished.
There are two fixed menus both $48. One is vegetarian. No one bit on the veggie (who can give up crab & duck?). Apologies in advance for the horrible pics. Takes too long to break the phone out of it’s new case and I feared I’d justifiably draw the ire of my dining compadres.
Perfect Little Gem with Cesar dressing gently accented with patis, queso de bola (from the Netherlands), paper thin watermelon radishes, and chives. No single ingredient dominates here. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Incredibly fresh and perfectly seasoned. Solid salad.
Talangka Egg Custard
Think chawanmushi with dungeness crab, “crab butter”, chayote, calamansi kosho, and crispy rice. It’s a party in your mouth. Every bite was different. Texture adverse to custard? No worries. The crispy rice makes the soft texture disappear. The layers of flavors shifted with every bite. It was a symphony. No one wanted the dish to end. My custard was seconds overdone. Just short of perfection being a tad firm and a little separated, but that might have been my fault…I dug in a little late trying to adjust light for that sucky picture. Still, one of my favorite dishes of 2016.
Crispy Pato (Duck)
A leg of duck with excellent crispy skin served with mang tomas sauce (traditional for lechon) made of duck liver. Green garlic farro, sweet pepper, onion escabeche served on the side provided a balance of richness cut by the acidity of the escabeche complimented by the slightly garlicky farro. My duck was a tad dry (probably tough to get that crispy skin without taking the rest of the meat a little over the edge), but the mang tomas compensated nicely by adding moisture and unctuousness. Nonetheless, a great dish.
FOURTH & FINAL
Stone Fruit & Hazelnuts
Condensed Milk Whip, Philippine Sea Salt Caramel
Terrific way to end a meal. A mound of soft melting ice cream made from condensed milk, topped with crunchy hazelnuts and thinly sliced nectarines fanned across the top. A couple of slices of nectarine were underripe, but it is hard to achieve that thin slice with too ripe fruit. Still, the sweetness of the whip and slight drizzle of the caramel compensates for that. Really, it’s a nit probably. One in our party doesn’t eat dessert and cleaned the bowl.
If you haven’t been to LASA, get your game on and GO. They plan on keeping this menu until the 26th of this month. They’ll do a 4th of July BBQ and transition to a new menu. Can’t wait to see what they do next. Solid QPR for $48, plenty of food for the boys.
If it helps, pairings for this menu, off-dry Riesling, a light-bodied Rose or Chenin through to the Talangka, then a heavier bodied rose or slightly cooled light bodied red (think Gamay) for the duck. Moscato D’Asti for the stone fruit course would be great. For beer, something like Bruery’s Tradewinds or Blackberry Farm Saison through the custard. For the duck, a sour (sour neutralizes sour and cuts the fattiness), Dubbel, or Doppelbock. Plan your drinks ahead and you’ll get off to a good start. Otherwise, be prepared for a slow, clumsy, unlubricated start.
LASA was a lovely experience with warm, welcoming service and a near perfect dining progression. I expected Philippine cuisine, but was pleasantly surprised instead by California’s finest ingredients inflected with and informed by Philippine tradition which transcended my expectations all the way around. If you want pow pow pow pungent in your face flavors, this is not your cuisine. But if you want a beautifully balanced, well-executed, humble, yet refined meal, you should go.
I don’t usually do a full review, but thought more folks should know and enjoy!